By DAVID WOODING
REMEMBRANCE Sunday is 17 days away and already politicians seem to be racing each other to be first to wear a poppy.
A host of MPs were proudly – and perhaps a little ostentatiously – sporting one in their lapels during Prime Minister’s question time in the Commons today.
But in recent years, the well-observed tradition seems to have taken on an unfortunate political edge.
Etiquette dictates that the poppy should be worn in the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday – on November 13 this year.
But Labour MPs today stole a march on the Tories with nothing short of a sea poppies on Opposition benches during Prime Minister’s questions in the Commons.
Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham chided: “Not a Tory on the front bench with a poppy.”
He tweeted: “They have been on sale in Parliament for days and large numbers have them. Surely wearing them encourages others.”
Isn’t this all a little unseemly? Nobody is forced to wear a poppy yet 26 million are sold every year raising an estimated £35 million for ex-servicemen, women and their families.
I’m sure that David Cameron and his MPs will all have bought and worn one before he lays a wreath at the Cenotaph next month.
Demanding the PM pins one to his jacket now is a bit like complaining he hasn’t sent his Christmas cards out by mid November.
No doubt nervous TV presenters will be pinning on a poppy fast lest they get a dressing down from righteous MPs.
Channel 4 News man Jon Snow fiercely refuses to give in to what he calls the “poppy fascists” and appears on screen with bare lapels all year round.
While some may find his stance a little extreme, many believe it is unfair to criticise MPs for being poppy-free in October.
Mr Cunningham’s followers accused him of a “petty partisan attack” and “twisted point-scoring”.
Amy Jackson declared: “My father spent 37 years in the Army and always taught me to start wearing poppies on November 1.”
Blogger Harry Cole added: “You used the war dead to try to score a point against the government.”
So what is poppy etiquette? A quick check in Debrett’s guide to good manners says poppies can be worn from the end of October to Remembrance Sunday – but adds it is acceptable to wear them from November 1 or just the week leading up to that day.
The Royal British Legion would probably settle for that – and scowl at the blatant politicisation of the biggest event in their calendar. Besides, the vets’ organization hasn’t even launched this year’s poppy appeal yet.
What is your view on the “poppy police” and “poppy etiquette?” Please leave your comments below.